Maestro: Todd Haynes
Known For: Art movies about society, identity, music and more masquerading as non-art movies.
Influences: A long list: Jean Genet, Stan Brakhage, Hitchock, Chantal Akerman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Douglas Sirk (of course), Oscar Wilde, Orson Welles and on and on and on.
Masterpieces: Far From Heaven and I'm Not There
Better than you remember: I doubt many people who actually saw Velvet Goldmine really disliked it, but it is better known for being a commercial flop than for being a quality film.
Awards: Oscar and Globe nominated for writing Far From Heaven. Spirit Award winner for Directing Far From Heaven (and nominated for just about every other movie he's made.)
Box Office: Over 15 mil for Far From Heaven. That Oscar recognition helps.
Favorite Actor: Julianne Moore in three films.
Todd Haynes has been fooling us, and he's very good at it. For a little while now Haynes has been tricking us into thinking he makes conventional prestige appeal films. It's a good trick for someone who truly makes art films. Since his debut (as part of the New Queer Movement) he's been masquerading art film as pop film successfully, in the 90's by mixing moods like the horror meets suburban quaintness Safe or the Ziggy Stardust meets Citizen Kane Velvet Goldmine. But the real slight of hand was Far From Heaven. A movie that seemed to be and was a big awards player (thanks a lot to Julianne Moore, not to mention Hayne's own talents) and yet no one noticed that it was still an art film at heart. Homage is one thing, but Far From Heaven could be Haynes attempt to make a film entirely inside the reality of another director (with the benefit of fifty years of cultural perspective). Just as we thought he'd hit the mainstream, Haynes fooled us again with a film so star-laden it had to be accessible at the least. Instead we got I'm Not There a confounding enigma that required more audience dedication and participation (though it was worth it) than anyone expected. Anyone except perhaps lifelong Haynes fans who already knew the trick up his sleeve.
Two identities, shaped by the world.
Stylistically don't be fooled by how much his films are influenced by past cinema. Haynes is his own man. Even when a film lives in another's reality, Haynes has the talent to make it his own. Later this year Haynes may fool us again. He's hard at work on the much anticipated Mildred Pierce miniseries, starring Kate Winslet. Here's a story that fits in perfectly with the director's consistent exploration of women and their place in the world. But where is the secret art film hiding inside? We'll all be waiting to see. Because we all keep coming back. We're all fools for Todd Haynes. Nomatter how many times he keeps fooling us.